Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Gospel of Chief Seattle: Written For Television

"No bright star hovers about the horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Some grim Nemesis of our race is on the red man’s trail ... the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter."

This revised and update essay was originally written in 1989 by Albert Bates for the Spring 1990 issue of Natural Rights. A little over a year later, The New York Times broke the story of the Seattle hoax on page 1. The Times revisited the hoax with a second page 1 story some 5 years later. Nonetheless, writers as distinguished as the Prince of Wales and Albert Gore, Jr. continued to quote Seattle’s speech in books and articles as though it were authentic.

This we know. The earth does not belong to man. Man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Pop quiz: Who said that? If you answered Chief Seattle you’d be wrong.

Those eloquent lines are one of the most oft-quoted, if not the most oft-quoted statements of deep ecology in history. We emblazoned them across the masthead of our first newsletter for the Natural Rights Center in 1978. They have since graced the pages of hundreds of magazines, from Newsweek to The National Geographic. We’re told that they are carved on a stone monument in the city of Seattle.

Trouble is, they were not originally spoken by Chief Seattle or any other Native American. They were written for television.

There really was a Chief Seattle, or more precisely, Chief Seeathl, of the Suquamish and Dkhw’Duw’Absh (Duwamish) tribes of the Pacific Northwest. He lived from about 1786 to 1866. He was tall and broad for a Puget Sound native, standing nearly six feet tall; Hudson’s Bay Company traders gave him the nickname Le Gros (The Big Guy). Seattle claimed to have seen the ships of the Vancouver Expedition as they explored Puget Sound in 1792.

At a meeting with the territorial governor on Monday, January 22, 1855, Seattle was asked to respond to the governor’s long speech concerning the Point Elliott Treaty. He said, in Southern Puget Sound Salish or Lushootseed language, “I look upon you as my father. I and the rest regard you as such. All of the Indians have the same good feeling towards you and will send it on paper to the Great Father. All of them, men, old men, women and children rejoice that he has sent you to take care of them. My mind is like yours. I don’t want to say more. My heart is very good towards Dr. Maynard. I want always to get medicine from him.”

The following day, after negotiations were concluded in which the tribes made a very large cession of land, Seattle said, “Now by this we make friends and put away all bad feelings if ever we had any. We are the friends of the Americans. All the Indians are of the same mind. We look upon you as our father. We will never change our minds, but since you have been to see us we will always be the same. Now, now do you send this paper of our hearts to the Great Chief. That is all I have to say.”

Two other short speeches by Chief Seattle are in the National Archives. One was a fragment of a speech recorded in 1850 and the other, from May of 1858, was a lament by Seattle that the Port Elliott treaty had failed to win ratification in the US Senate, leaving the tribes in poverty and poor health. Those four short speeches are all we really know of the words of Chief Seattle.

The myth of Chief Seattle’s famous oration began thirty-two years after the event, on October 29, 1887. On that date, Dr. Henry A. Smith published an article in the Seattle Sunday Star under the heading “Early Reminiscences №10. “ Dr. Smith wrote of the Port Elliott negotiations,
Old Chief Seattle was the largest Indian I ever saw, and by far the noblest-looking. He stood 6 feet full in his moccasins, was broad-shouldered, deep-chested, and finely proportioned. His eyes were large, intelligent, expressive and friendly when in repose, and faithfully mirrored the varying moods of the great soul that looked through them. He was usually solemn, silent, and dignified, but on great occasions moved among assembled multitudes like a Titan among Lilliputians, and his lightest word was law.
When rising to speak in council or to tender advice, all eyes were turned upon him, and deep-toned, sonorous, and eloquent sentences rolled from his lips like the ceaseless thunders of cataracts flowing from exhaustless fountains, and his magnificent bearing was as noble as that of the most cultivated military chieftain in command of the forces of a continent. Neither his eloquence, his dignity, or his grace were acquired. They were as native to his manhood as leaves and blossoms are to a flowering almond.
His influence was marvelous. He might have been an emperor but all his instincts were democratic, and he ruled his loyal subjects with kindness and paternal benignity. He was always flattered by marked attention from white men, and never so much as when seated at their tables, and on such occasions he manifested more than anywhere else the genuine instincts of a gentleman.
Writing for the Spring 1985 edition of US National Archives’ Prologue Magazine, historian Jerry L. Clark observed:
Smith’s version of the speech does not square with the recollections of other witnesses; and as we have seen, Smith himself may not have been present as a witness. As a result of such discrepancies, staff of the National Archives in Washington, DC, concluded that the speech is most likely fiction.
This speech is indeed memorable, and one is left wondering how Dr. Smith managed to translate a lengthy address in the obscure Lushootseed language, after being first translated into Chinook Jargon, a limited trading language, into then such florid Victorian prose, or why he waited 32 years to publish his translation.

“It matters but little where we pass the remainder of our days. They are not many. The Indian’s night promises to be dark. No bright star hovers about the horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Some grim Nemesis of our race is on the red man’s trail, and wherever he goes he will still hear the sure approaching footsteps of the fell destroyer and prepare to meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter.
“A few more moons, a few more winters, and not one of all the mighty hosts that once filled this broad land or that now roam in fragmentary bands through these vast solitudes will remain to weep over the tombs of a people once as powerful and as hopeful as your own. But why should we repine? Why should I murmur at the fate of my people? Tribes are made up of individuals and are no better than they. Men come and go like the waves of the sea. A tear, a tamanamus, a dirge, and they are gone from our longing eyes forever. Even the white man, whose God walked and talked with him, as friend to friend, is not exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers, after all. We shall see. 
“We will ponder your proposition, and when we have decided we will tell you. But should we accept it, I here and now make this the first condition: That we will not be denied the privilege, without molestation, of visiting at will the graves of our ancestors and friends. Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Every hill-side, every valley, every plain and grove has been hallowed by some fond memory or some sad experience of my tribe. Even the rocks that seem to lie dumb as they swelter in the sun along the silent seashore in solemn grandeur thrill with memories of past events connected with the fate of my people, and the very dust under your feet responds more lovingly to our footsteps than to yours, because it is the ashes of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch, for the soil is rich with the life of our kindred….
“The ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their final resting place is hallowed ground, while you wander away from the tombs of your fathers seemingly without regret. Your religion was written on tablets of stone by the iron finger of an angry God, lest you might forget it. The red man could never remember nor comprehend it. Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors, the dreams of our old men, given them by the great Spirit, and the visions of our sachems, and is written in the hearts of our people. Your dead cease to love you and the homes of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb. They wander far off beyond the stars, are soon forgotten, and never return. Our dead never forget the beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its winding rivers, its great mountains and its sequestered vales, and they ever yearn in tenderest affection over the lonely hearted living and often return to visit and comfort them.”
Another question is how Seattle, who had been a devout Catholic since 1848, could say something like “Your religion was written upon tablets of stone by the iron finger of your God.”

Giving Seattle, and Dr. Smith, the benefit of the doubt on the original Seattle speech published in the Seattle Sunday Star, there is still the question of the later Seattle speech, which is reprinted frequently. It bears little resemblance to Dr. Smith’s translation and nobody ever heard of it before 1972, when a completely different version appeared in the November 11 issue of Environmental Action. 

In 1974, it was displayed in the US Pavilion at the Seattle World’s Fair. That same year, the entire text appeared in Northwest Orient Airlines’ Passages magazine under the title, “The Decidedly Unforked Message of Chief Seattle.” A Dutch translation appeared in 1975, followed by a Swedish translation in 1976 and a German translation in 1979. After the World Council of Churches reprinted it in book form, it saturated the Eastern Hemisphere from Finland to South Africa. It has since found its way into dozens of languages and is frequently quoted in books and magazines all over the world.
By this time it was no longer billed as a speech, but as a letter from Chief Seattle to President Pierce. The editor of Environmental Action had picked it up from Dale Jones, who was the Northwest Representative of the group Friends of the Earth. Jones himself has since said that he “first saw the letter in September 1972 in a now out of business Native American tabloid newspaper.”

Eli Gifford’s 2015 book, The Many Speeches of Chief Seattle (Seathl): The Manipulation of the Record on Behalf of Religious Political and Environmental Causes, retraced the steps of the National Archives in attempting to locate the letter. There is no record in either the private papers of President Pierce in the New Hampshire Historical Society or in the Presidential Papers of Pierce in the Library of Congress.
It would be quite improbable if not impossible for a letter from the Chief of an Indian tribe to the President of the United States not to have been recorded in at least one of the governmental offices through which it passed. For the letter to have made it to the desk of the President it would have passed through at least six departments: the local Indian agent, Colonel Simmons; to the superintendent of Indian Affairs, Gov. Stevens; to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs; to the office of the Secretary of the Interior and finally to the President’s desk — quite a paper trail for the letter to have left not a trace. It can be concluded that no letter was written by or for Seattle and sent to President Pierce or to any other President. (Seattle was illiterate and moreover did not speak English, so he obviously could not write English.)
The staff at the National Archives has been unable to locate any such letter among the records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the National Archives and “concluded that the letter … is probably spurious.”

Where did Environmental Action get it? According to investigator Rudolf Kaiser, EA received a xeroxed clipping from the Seattle office of Friends of the Earth, which someone had cut from a Native American tabloid. The tabloid had transcribed it from a tape of a television show called Home, produced by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1972. The filmscript was written by Texas screenwriter Ted Perry in the winter of 1970–71, after listening to an Earth Day rendering of Dr. Smith’s Seattle oration read by Professor William Arrowsmith (who poetically enhanced the speech to remove what Arrowsmith called “the dense patina of 19th century literary diction and syntax”). 

Ted Perry picks up the story from there:
“I asked Professor Arrowsmith (he and I were both teaching at the University of Texas) if I might use the idea as a basis for the script; he graciously said yes… So I wrote a speech which was a fiction. I would guess that there were several sentences which were paraphrases of sentences in Professor Arrowsmith’s translation but the rest was mine. In passing the script along to the Baptists, I always made clear that the work was mine. And they, of course, knew the script was original; they would surely not have paid me, as they did, for a speech which I had merely retyped.

“In presenting them with a script, however, I made the mistake of using Chief Seattle’s name in the body of the text. I don’t remember why this was done; my guess is that it was just a mistake on my part. In writing a fictional speech I should have used a fictitious name. In any case, when next I saw the script it was the narration for a film called Home aired on ABC or NBC-TV in 1972, I believe. I was surprised when the telecast was over, because there was no ‘written by’ credit on the film. I was more than surprised; I was angry. So I called up the producer and he told me that he thought the text might be more authentic if there were no ‘written by’ credit given.”
Arrowsmith adds: “Perry tried to insist to his producer for the film (the Southern Baptist Convention) that the speech was not in any sense a translation. But they overrode his decision… Hence they talked glibly about a ‘letter’ to President Pierce… In the course of their work, the Baptists added still more ‘material’ to the speech. The bulk of their editions is the religiosity of their Seattle.”

Home’s producer, John Stevens, added a lot of elements to make the speech compatible with Baptist theology, including the words “I am a savage and do not understand.” Stevens said:
“I edited the speech to fit our needs [Baptists] more closely. There was no apple pie and motherhood and so I added the references to God and I am a savage to make the Radio and Television Commission happy … I had edited scripts that did not have the Baptists’ line dozens of times. This needed to be done so they could justify spending thousands of dollars on a film … I eventually quit my job as a producer because I got tired of shoehorning those interests into scripts.
The version of Chief Seattle’s speech edited by Stevens was then made into a poster and 18,000 copies were sent out as a promotion for the movie.

Now that the author, or authors, of Seattle’s famous speech is known, what comes of the myth? In our search for truth, are we losing sight of something more important? The Seattle speech captured the imagination of millions of people and has influenced ecological philosophy and environmental activism for more than four decades. Bruce Kent, National Chaplain of Pax Christi in Britain says, it’s a whole religious concept… I think its really a fifth gospel, almost …”

Ted Perry’s remarkable little piece destroyed the dualism of the sacred and profane; it united them into a holistic Web of Life. It was a profound statement precisely the moment western civilization was emotionally ready for it. If we quietly forget the attribution to Seattle, perhaps we can still retain the tremendous value of the speech itself.
“Every part of this earth is sacred to our people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing, and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.

 “We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man–all belong to the same family…

 “We know that the White Man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his fathers’ graves, and his children’s birthright is forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.

 “This shining water that moves in the streams and the rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you this land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father…

 “The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where even the white man can go and taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow’s flowers.”
The intrinsic value of these sentiments is so enormous, that it hardly matters who wrote them, or whether they accurately reflect the philosophy of Chief Seattle or the Duwamish people, or even Native Americans generally. The important thing to notice is that the statements have a ring of truth. The message is that we have to stop being an adversary of nature and begin seeing ourselves as part of nature’s family. We have to live with, instead of in spite of, natural laws.

Whether that thought originated with Seattle, Smith, Arrowsmith, or Perry doesn’t matter. 

 • Callicott, J., American Indian Land Wisdom? Sorting out the Issues, J. of Forest History 33:1:3542 (Jan. 1989).
 • Editorial, The Gospel of Chief Seattle is a Hoax, Environmental Ethics 11:3:195–196 (Fall 1989).
 • Kaiser, R., “A Fifth Gospel, Almost” Chief Seattle’s Speech(es): American Origins and European Reception, in C.F. Feest, ed., Indians and Europe: An Interdisciplinary Collection of Essays (Aachen: Rader Verlag, 1987).
 • United Native Indian Tribes, Inc., Chief Seattle Speaks (leaflet).
 • Vanderwerth, W., ed., Indian Oratory: Famous Speeches by Noted Indian Chieftains (Norman: U. of Okla. Press, 1971).

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Can Foodies Save the Planet?

"Facing all of these grave threats, humans collectively have chosen to go insane."

Having at times gone into rehab for our addiction to climate porn — wilderness retreats with no internet, long distance travel, remote natural building projects — we always fall back when we return to default world. Nowadays we could say we’ve become a high-functioning addict. We sip our morning coffee while surfing through RSS feeds from Joe Romm, Peter Sinclair, Paul Beckwith, Bru Pearce, Nick Breeze, James Hoggan… the list goes on.

These porn themes are redundant and recursive. Honestly, they have not changed since 1988 when Jim Hansen let both shoes drop in his Congressional testimony. To summarize:
  • We are in the lower curve of acceleration for man-made climate change.
  • We can see an expressed effect of 0.8°C in average global temperature, 20 cm. sea level rise (varies by location), and the Sixth Great Extinction. These have already happened.
  • On our present trajectory by mid-century a Sandy-scale superstorm will strike some major city approximately every other year and halting the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is no longer possible.
  • What we cannot yet see is the implied effect. The one that locked in when we crossed beyond 300, then 350, then 400 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere. Still to come, although not yet unavoidable, are 3 to 7 degrees of warming, dustbowls in the centers of continents and untold meters of sea level rise.
  • Lots of bad stuff happens at 1 degree of warming. It is exponentially worse at 1.5. Two degrees is unimaginably horrible for mammals and many higher life forms. The warming now ahead even if the Paris Agreement is followed to the letter — 3 degrees, possibly more — won’t really matter for humans because we will have died out before then.
“This is not tenable. No moral society would risk this. No moral society would ever come near this. I think we will get desperate in ten years. I had hoped we would get desperate this decade rather than next decade. We are serious this decade, finally. Hopefully we will be desperate next decade and then in the 2030s we will be so far beyond desperate it will look like World War II.”
This chart from Hansen & Sato shows continued actual global
emissions versus the IPCC optimal target (RCP 2.6) which
requires a 3% decline slope.
Facing all of these grave threats, humans collectively have chosen to go insane. We are greening our homes, buying electric cars, climbing stairs over riding the elevator. We are changing lightbulbs, buying local stuff, putting solar on the roof. Meanwhile CO2 and methane emissions continue to rise.

Why such a disconnect? Why are we, as Martin Lukacs asks, “bringing a flyswatter to a gunfight?”

The places we get our information — mainstream media, television ads, school textbooks, church sermons, even the campaigns of mainstream environmental groups — have all gone soft. They are dumping out fake news by the bushel. Even Al Gore and Bill McKibben soft-pedal human extinction.

But, hang on, there are a few lose threads in our sweater. What if we just pull … here?

At the terminal phase of complex civilizations, just before they implode and the great cities all crumble as their populations disperse back into nature, typically accompanied by famine, disease, wars, waves of refugees and precipitous decline in stored knowledge, there are the grand eras of spectacle, theater, and peak excess.

You can put that pin in the human timeline now, marked “You Are Here.”

We are at or close to the summit of Peak Excess, where we shall have the best views of the splendid dawn of the Age of Consequences.

The sweater thread? Foodies.

Foodies are a fragile thread could alter that trajectory. Gourmet feasts and fads, celebrity chefs and gastronomic tournaments are also standard fare during Peak Excess periods, but the contemporary variety bears a slightly different flavor. We have begun, at the edges of that movement, to compute nutrient density and score it along with flavor and tradition.

Nutrient density is a function of growing healthy plants and, in some cases, feeding them to healthy animals. These become food by ways and means that do not rob their nutrient stores and may even enhance them.

For example, organically grown carrots, onions and cabbages might be hand processed into slaws and krauts that allow friendly lactobacillus to join your gut microbiome to help digest your food and boost your immune system.

Perhaps — because they are organically certified — they came from soils that are teeming with happy aerobic bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, microarthropods and earthworms (as opposed to being deadened by the wasting effects of chemical addiction or hyperactive genes).

Plants garden, too. They cultivate the soil microbes they most desire by feeding them the sugars those life-forms most crave. Out of gratitude or greed, the microbes build zones of protective communities around the roots of the plants. They excrete enzymes to absorb, concentrate and convert those nutrients.

To pay their rent and get more of those great sugars, they give back to the plants the nutrients they have converted, using runners like root nematodes.

This nutrient-cycling system been going on in our soils for about the last 3.5 billion years. It is highly sophisticated now. When dumb two-legged agronomists arrived they proclaimed that only three essential nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) are needed for plant growth. So now we run down to the store and buy a sack of chemical fertilizer, made from and by fossil fuels, and we expend enormous energy — a caloric deficit of 10 to 1 or greater — and besides producing food with all the nutrition of cardboard we bank existence-threatening greenhouse pollution.

Elaine Ingham says,
“Everything in balance. And that is what the biology is so good at. Releasing all the nutrients in the proper concentrations so nothing is lacking. It’s like calling up for a pizza — the exudates are the telephone, calling up and asking for exactly what it needs, and the bacteria and fungi are the cooks who pull all the right ingredients together, based on what the plant ordered, and the protozoa etc. are the pizza delivery guys, who deposit those nutrients right where the plant needs them, in the root zone. Isn’t that cool?”
If we wonder why we get sick all the time, maybe it is no wonder. We are missing nutrients just the same as our plants are. Mostly, we are missing the same nutrients are plants are.

When it comes to growing nutrient dense foods, nothing outperforms biochar. There is a good reason for this. The micropore structure works in the soil the same way a coral reef works in the ocean — as a platform for biodiversity. That it also converts carbon into long-term storage away from the atmosphere is of minor concern to foodies. What it does to the life of the soil, it also does for the health and the nutrient-density of the plants. That not coincidentally translates into deeper, richer flavors.

Nutrient density measuring devices (beyond your nose and tongue) are not yet available to consumers, but the day is not far away when they will be. Before then, we may start to see food labeling based on ND codes. We already do for some “cool” foods grown in biochar-amended soils.
We only need a fraction of the Earth’s soils to be converted to nutrient density. The French initiative 4 Pour 1000, calculates an 0.004 increase in the carbon density of soils would be enough to turn back the Anthropocene.

If we are as we eat, then perhaps we can eat our way out of this.

Lorin Fries, the head of Food Systems Collaboration for the World Economic Forum, says that food tech is changing as rapidly as iPhones: 
A decade from now, the food we eat today — and the systems behind it — may seem as outdated as a phone without apps. Technology is accelerating change everywhere. The question is not whether it will reshape how we make food, move it and eat it; the question is how.
Imagine opening your fridge in 2030. Maybe that pork came from a single pig cell, grown into “clean meat” in a lab. Perhaps that leftover rice was gene-edited with CRISPR-Cas9 or the lettuce was produced with a personal “food computer” in a city building, through a data recipe.
To which we reply, eeeeewww! No thanks.

In Mexico City there is a restaurant that serves only traditional indigenous foods from chinampas, the superabundant aquacultural systems that built the Aztec Empire. The purchasing power of foodies is helping to revive the ancient chinampas of Xochimilco.

What’s wrong with terroir? Not terror, which is what comes to mind when we think of CRISPR rice, but terroir, the set of all environmental factors that affect a crop’s phenotype — its unique environment contexts, farming practices and specific growth habits. Think varietals of wine, coffee, tobacco, chocolate, chili peppers, hops, agave (tequila and mescal), tomatoes, heritage grains, maple syrup, tea and cannabis.

We would take a deep humus with faint hints of cherries and chocolate over synthetic hydroponic media any day. Perhaps the CRISPR can design to boost an ND score, but we tend to doubt it. It’s the bacteria, stupid. And for those you’ll need recalcitrant soil carbon and plenty of it.
Food, glorious food!
 Hot sausage and mustard!
 While we’re in the mood — 
 Cold jelly and custard!
 Pease pudding and saveloys!
 What next is the question?
 Rich gentlemen have it, boys — 

 Food, glorious food!
 We’re anxious to try it.
 Three banquets a day — 
 Our favourite diet!

 Just picture a great big steak — 
 Fried, roasted or stewed.
 Oh, food,
 Wonderful food,
 Marvelous food,
 Glorious food.

 Food, glorious food!
 What is there more handsome?
 Gulped, swallowed or chewed — 
 Still worth a king’s ransom.
 What is it we dream about?
 What brings on a sigh?
 Piled peaches and cream, about
 Six feet high!

 Food, glorious food!
 Eat right through the menu.
 Just loosen your belt
 Two inches and then you
 Work up a new appetite.
 In this interlude — 
 The food,
 Once again, food
 Fabulous food,
 Glorious food.
— Oliver!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Snowflake Summer

"Why has academia descended into neo-fascist regimentation?"

We didn’t give serious thought to snowflakes until a friend, James Howard Kunstler, got crossways with them at a university speaking gig. Kunstler has written a lot about it since then. He says we’re now living under a condition of “intellectual martial law.” 

Snowflakes are the pampered generation of millennials who cannot tolerate ideas that challenge their perceptions of appropriate speech. Howard Schwartz, professor emeritus of Oakland University, has written a new book, Political Correctness and the Destruction of Social Order: Chronicling the Rise of the Pristine Self. Schwartz offers some clarity on why the term “snowflakes” is now synonymous with college students. Schwartz writes that:
[T]his is a self that is touched by nothing but love. The problem is that nobody is touched by nothing but love, and so if a person has this as an expectation, if they have built their sense of themselves around this premise, the inevitable appearance of the something other than love blows this structure apart.
Interviewed by Kate Hardiman for The College Fix, he added:
[T]he oversensitivity of individuals today, including political correctness and microaggressions, all stem from this idea that people operating under the notion of the pristine self view you as evil because you are showing them something other than love.
People now experience the entire world as a form of bullying. The helicopter parent protects the children from real dangers but also fantasy dangers. These precious snowflakes are the children of political correctness, their parents and schools lead them to believe that the world is perfectly moralistic — they don’t live in the real world, it is a fantasy.
On the July 6 Keiser Report, Stacey Herbert pointed to a study in The American Conservative, Will American Childhood Create An Authoritarian Society?
Overprotective parenting is a threat to democracy. American childhood has taken an authoritarian turn. An array of trends in American society are conspiring to produce unprecedented levels of supervision and control over children’s lives. Tracing the effects of childrearing on broad social outcomes is an exercise in speculation. But if social scientists are correct to posit a connection between childrearing and long-term political outcomes, today’s restrictive childhood norms may portend a broader regression in our country’s democratic consensus.
This shouldn’t be surprising considering that few institutions in American society have embraced authoritarianism as decisively in recent years as academia — the arena where helicoptered millennials increasingly get their first taste of independence. Since 2000, at least 240 campaigns have been launched at universities to prevent appearances by public figures, most of which have occurred since 2009. Behind these authoritarian efforts are an army of “chief diversity officers” — 75 of whom have been hired between 2015 and 2016 at colleges and universities. Their mandate: train students against “subtle insults,” “environmental microaggressions,” and “microinvalidations.” In this resurgence of political correctness, New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait sees not simply a “rigorous commitment to social equality” but rather an “undemocratic creed” and a “system of left-wing ideological repression.”
Herbert and her partner Max Keiser were in Mexico City and couldn’t help but notice all the children playing outdoors. She recalled how much of her childhood had been spent that way. “Bored?” her mother would ask, “Go out and play.” Like every other child, she had to use her imagination.

Keiser says Charles Shultz captured the snowflake in the character of Lucy, who would march in and take the rubber band away from Linus or the football from Charlie Brown. “Lucy was the Pol Pot of children’s cartoons.”

Today most USAnian parents are afraid to let children outdoors alone. One of the staple products of the overdeveloped world is fear. We noticed this last week when we got a haptic from our Apple Watch about an Amber alert 300 miles away in another state.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

We endure shoe and belt removal, pat down, sniffing dogs and obnoxious questioning because we need to travel. We are not frightened — although being that close to loaded guns warrants caution — but we are also not amused. We know that it chills speech, chills expression and chills freedom. It chills the society — cold enough to make snowflakes. The American Conservative writes:
[S]trong social pressures have so hardened against parents who believe in the value of a free, unsupervised childhood that psychologist Peter Gray likens them to past Chinese norms on foot binding.
Hard numbers illustrate these trends:
· The amount of free time school-aged children enjoyed plummeted from 40 percent in the early 1980s to 25 percent by the mid 1990s.
· The time young children spend in school jumped from 5–6 hours in the early 1980s to almost 7 hours beginning in the early 2000s.
· By 2006, some 40 percent of schools had either eliminated recess or were considering doing so.

Snowflakes, the study offers, crave authoritarian restrictions. They grew up on video games that had hard and fast rules. They were conducted within the confines of a screen, and perhaps, in their virtual realities, within the confines of a pre-scripted maze.

When American students are moving for only 18 minutes per day at school, it’s hardly a surprise that we’ve seen since the 1970s a more than threefold increase in the number of overweight 6 to 11 year olds.

Experts meanwhile are linking increasing rates of anger, aggression, and severe behavior problems to a lack of free play. These outcomes are consistent with evolutionary psychology theories that consider play to be a critical part of child development, teaching children to cope with, and ultimately master, fears and phobias.

Kunstler writes:
Why does the thinking class in America embrace ideas that are not necessarily, and surely not self-evidently, truthful, and even self-destructive? Because this class is dangerously insecure and perversely needs to insist on being right about its guiding dogmas and shibboleths at all costs. That is why so much of the behavior emanating from the thinking class amounts to virtue signaling — we are the good people on the side of what’s right, really we are! Of course, virtue signaling is just the new term for self-righteousness.
Snowflakes do not like the unknown. If someone breaks the rules by espousing a contrary belief to theirs, they want the state to come down hard on them. Invited speakers on campus offend these sensibilities at their peril. Even professors who dare to float an alternative narrative can be fired.

Recent studies supported by the Alliance for Childhood found that kindergartens have “changed radically in the last two decades.” Exploration, exercise, and imagination are being deemphasized and play has “dwindled to the vanishing point.” Instead, kindergartens are introducing “lengthy lessons” and “highly prescriptive curricula geared to new state standards and linked to standardized tests” — curricula often taught by teachers who “must follow scripts from which they may not deviate.”

Translate that beyond the ivy walls and you get neo-fascist political regimentation, in businesses and the public sphere. Target stores have a “Director of Empathy.”

Following the 2016 election pollsters learned that those who believe that is more important for children to be respectful rather than independent; obedient over self-reliant; well-behaved more than considerate; and well-mannered versus curious, were more than two and a half times as likely to support Trump than those with the opposite preferences.
Indeed, social scientists have long argued that the origins of authoritarian societies can be discerned in childhood pathologies.
Among the most far-reaching adherents of this view was the late psychologist Alice Miller, a student of authoritarian regimes. Through her study of Nazism and Soviet communism, Miller concluded that dictatorships emerge when an entire generation of children is raised under authoritarian conditions replete with excessive forms of control and discipline. In the case of Nazi Germany, Miller is convinced that Hitler would not have come to power but for turn-of-the-century German childrearing practices that emphasized “unthinking obedience” and discouraged creativity. The millions of Germans who ultimately supported Nazism, in Miller’s views, were coping with the legacy of a “hidden concentration camp of childhood” — one enforced by the “clean, orderly citizens, God-fearing, respectable churchgoers” who comprised the ranks of Germany’s authority figures.
So what happens to the Snowflake when the world melts? Sheltered and protected since birth they have little capacity to improvise, sacrifice, and make strategic decisions upon which may hang their own survival. Sure, they may have the experience of outrunning a virtual zombie hoard, but if they stumbled it was never really game over, just time for a re-set. In life there are no re-sets.

As an added bonus for our faithful followers we have extracted a short snippet from the late Bill Mollison (1928–2016) during one of his last permaculture lectures. Bill was in rare form, and we offer this as an example of outlandishly outside-the-bounds-speech that enriches and enlivens learning.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Maya Theater States

"What generally occurs when a civilization over-extends is not a complete disappearance but a rapid decline in complexity."
Detroit: Theater Ruins
 The collapse of the Classic Maya period, around 900 CE, is an active academic field, with many conflicting theories and a mountain of literature. While traveling in the Yucatán we are reading Arthur Demarest’s Ancient Maya: the Rise and Fall of the Rainforest Civilization (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

One of the terms Demarest uses to describe the period is a “theater-state.” The ruling elite, known as the K’uhul Ajaw, or Holy Lords, were relatively hands-off with respect to economics, social welfare and trade but devoted lots of resources to legitimizing their political and religious authority through monumental architecture, art, pageant, sports spectacles and warfare.

This resource misallocation — taking away from the real needs of the populace, especially in times of stress — led to swelling the elite class, enormous diversions to unproductive types of labor, depredations from unnecessary wars, resentment from disenfranchised youth who were relegated to javelin–fodder, and, of course, ecological decay — as previously elegant eco-agriculture microsystems (using 400–500 species of plants) were consolidated into monocultures and overproduced.

A question Demarest probes is why, in so many areas, did not Mayan leaders respond with effective corrective measures for the stresses generated by internal and external pressures they could not have failed to notice. We generally think of complex societies as problem-solving machines, in which elaborate chains of central command and control “wire” a nation to meet its goals. Yet beginning around the Eighth Century, the Holy Lords were apparently away from the control room.

Demarest thinks the problem was structural. Since the elites of the most classic Maya kingdoms did not farm or manage production of goods, the “real” economy was decentralized to community or family. The role of the Holy Lords was to manage a “false” economy that was derivative, its only marginal utility being that it gave their Kingdoms some sort of patriotic zeal or sense of exceptionalism.

When these derivatives eventually began to unravel, the Holy Lords, like mechanics with a limited set of wrenches, did what they knew best — they intensified ritual activities, built taller and more ornate temples and expensive stages, props, and costumes, and scheduled more performance rituals, wars, and feasting. Contrary to earlier results, however, these measures only prolonged or intensified the problems, led to further disenchantment, which eventually brought about whatever cataclysm dethroned them.

Successive rounds of quantitative easing had diminishing returns. The “real” economy suffered a century-long drought punctuated by severe droughts in CE 810, 860 and 910. Even the “false” economy could not help but feel reality intrude.

Today the theater state is shown in high definition and 3-D, and it resembles in its own way the grand Berlin pageants of Albert Speer as much as the scenes from Apocalypto. Mad-Men have refined the manufacture of consent, to use Chomsky’s phrase, to a fine science, and as in Classic Maya times, military recruitment is viewed as a fortunate outlet for the unemployed.
However, a “classic” period, signifying the peak of empire and also a peak in energy, productivity, and population in most cases, is never sustainable, because it is inherently unbalanced.

Demarest’s insight here is that we tend to characterize every civilization in terms of “preclassic, classic, and postclassic,” but we might do better to think of it as “stable and expanding,” “unstable,” and “shrinking and reconsolidating.” Preclassic Maya agriculture was exceedingly diverse, with agroforestry, household garden plots, rotational field crops, chinampas and aquaponic systems, and perhaps also novel farming techniques we have yet to learn about. So was the postclassic. We have only just recently begun to appreciate that the “slash and burn” found in many parts of the tropics was once a highly productive and ecologically sustainable biochar amendment system when practiced in the ancient ways.

The Mayan preclassic food system was only marginally regional. While trade and tribute brought in salt, chocolate, hardwoods, hard stone, luxuries, textiles, and non-perishable goods, transportation of corn or other staples was largely prohibitive from an energy efficiency standpoint. Moving corn on the back of a man 25 km requires the consumption of 16% of the caloric value of the load. Transport from 100 km would have cost a third of the load in expended caloric energy. Demarest wrote, “Such high transport costs might have been maintained by a few Mayan cities at their peak, but more generally Mayan subsistence economies and markets were probably based on an area of about 20 to 30 km — a day of travel from the major center and its periodic markets.”

Joseph Tainter’s famous 1988 analysis of civilizational collapses argues that what generally occurs when a civilization over-extends is not a complete disappearance but a rapid decline in complexity. Axiomatically, it can be said that the instability experienced at the peak of a culture is a function of over-complexity.

Pablo Lopez Luz, Mexico City 2017

While this might be true of the Maya in some ways, in other respects that analysis fails to satisfy. While the theater state of the Holy Lords reached a peak complexity and then declined, a different type of state followed that increased in complexity over what had existed in the classic period. The end of the theater state led to the cessation of monumental architecture and the disappearance of high status exotic goods and ornaments, but good riddance.

At the same time, although at different times and speeds in different regions, there was a flowering and transformation to the new order. Extensive ecological, archaeological, and settlement pattern studies have found a resurgence of complex agricultural regimes that were well adapted to population levels with no indications of nutritional stress. When the curtains were drawn on the theater state, the health and welfare of the people improved. With the loss of simple monoculture and central authority and the diffusion of complex microfarming diversity and decentralized councils, the new order recaptured stability.

What followed in the postclassic period were a diffusion of distinctive new variants of the classic culture, with strange costumes, long hairstyles, experimentation with new legitimating ideologies, and unusual features in buildings, sculpture and ceramics (e.g.: ubiquitous serpents, brightly colored murals, and the psychedelic temple complex of Tulum).

The Maya that flourish in the Guatemalan highlands and Yucatán today are as populous and even more vigorous economically than during the classic theater state, but they do not generate anything like the art and architecture of their predecessors from 1000 years ago. They don’t need to.
Demarest observed,
For at least 6000 years, the hallmarks of the Western tradition have been linear concepts of time, monocultural agricultural systems, overproduction and exchange of surplus in full-market economies, technology-driven development, a long history of attempts to separate religious and political authority, and judgmental Gods concerned with individual, personal moral conduct. As we learn from the Maya, none of these traits is universal, none of them was characteristic of classic Maya civilization, and none of them is critical to the fluorescence of high civilization.
Too often scholars and the public viewed non-Western societies with an implicit, unconscious condescension. We tend to regard their political and economic systems as incomplete (“less evolved”) versions of our own. Ideology and cosmetology are viewed as detailed esoteric collections of ideas fascinating for scholarly study and public imagination. We also tend to emphasize aspects of ancient religion that attempted control of nature as “primitive science.” In so doing, we ignore the personal and philosophical challenges of experiencing another worldview — an alternative perspective on existence and death.
From an openly philosophical, subjective, and postmodern perspective of our society and its science, we are no wiser than the Maya priests and shamans in the face of these mysteries. For that reason we can study the ancient Maya, and other non-Western cultures, as sources of alternative views of reality and of contemplation of our own culturally ingrained worldviews. You can view the classic Maya as a less developed society trying to control the forces of nature and to survive economically. Or instead, they can be regarded as fellow travelers who simply chose a different path through the darkness.
The pre- and postclassic system of mimicking the diversity and dispersion of the forest allowed the Maya to maintain populations in the millions in the Yucatán for over 1500 years without destroying a rich but fragile tropical environment and biodiversity. They are still here — still engaged in that work. That offers hope for us all.

This is an update of an essay we wrote six years ago from the Fourth World Congress on Ecological Restoration in Mérida, México. It was published as part of the collection Pour Evian on Your Radishes in 2014.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Ragweed Tribe

We are at the gatehouse to The Farm, the Welcome Center we set up for greeting guests as they arrive. This day they are coming for the annual homecoming celebration we call Ragweed Days. Our job is not unlike the door greeters’ at WalMart, without the blue vests. We have a tie-dye pouch to hold pencils and loose change in case we sell some books or t-shirts, and a stack of hold-harmless forms to give non-residents to sign.

It is a bit incongruent, because in the early days of the community money was never exchanged between hippies. It wasn’t that we were socialist or communist. We were intentionally moneyless
By some reckonings, more than 4000 people lived at The Farm at some point in time during the past half-century. In the 1970s there were more than 500 youths under the age of 18 living here.

The community is now in its fourth generation since the original bus caravan left Haight Ashbury in October 1970. The most permanent residents lie out at the end of Cemetery Lane under six feet of hardscrabble dirt. The newest are still being born, or have shown up and managed to get themselves voted into residency after a short period of getting to know us.

This two-story building arrived on truck carriage wheels and was lowered onto these foundations. It was purchased at condemnation auction, a clapboard and tarpaper relic of the greater throwaway society. As a 20-something-year-old Farm mason, we faced this gatehouse with red brick salvaged from the Singer Pants factory in Pulaski, chipping off the old mortar with a rock hammer.
We recall a band of young Akwesasne Mohawks showing up one day while we were about 10 feet off the ground laying bricks to string. They took up trowels and showed us a far finer level of craft than our self-taught kind. If you look closely, you can still see that edge here on the side of the building — the border where it crosses from amateur to professional.

We are reading to great enjoyment, Tribe: Our Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger, who writes:
There is remarkably little evidence of depression-based suicide among tribal societies. Among the American Indians, for example, suicide was understood to apply in very narrow circumstances: in old age to avoid burdening the tribe; in the ritual paroxysms of grief following the death of a spouse; in a hopeless but heroic battle with an enemy; and in an attempt to avoid the agony of torture.
In many of the better-studied North American tribes, Junger writes, the suicide rate was zero. This stands in stark contrast to any modern societies where the suicide rate is as high as 25 cases per 100,000 people. In the United States, white middle-aged men currently have the highest rate at nearly 30 suicides per 100,000.
People in wealthy countries suffer depression at eight times the rate of poor countries. Urban USAnian women, the most affluent demographic, are the most likely to experience depression.
A wealthy person who has never had to rely on help and resources from his community is leading a privileged life that falls way outside more than a million years of human experience. Financial independence can lead to isolation, and isolation can put people at a greatly increased risk of depression and suicide. This might be a fair trade for a generally wealthy society, but a trade it is.
We are particularly struck by what Junger, who as a war correspondent experienced what it is like to hang one’s life by a thread, says about male herd behavior. We have written here in the past about herd behavior in the context of climate change solutions, because as we often say, it is not science or technology that confounds us from mending Earth’s ecology, it is human social behavior.

As can be seen in zebras or wildebeest crossing a river full of crocodiles, herding is a rational defense strategy. Bunching herds protect their majority from predators, although a few will be lost to the needs of the river dwellers.

Millions of years ago, our ape ancestors adopted herd strategy over lone individualism and it has served us well. Our fads and fashions are not really optional — they are hard wired to our genetic code. When we choose to wear a necktie and blazer, or a pants suit with jewelry and heels, we are signaling membership in a particular band. The cars we drive, the places we live, the foods we eat — all signals of belonging to a particular tribe.

Adversity being a teacher of the true way is not necessarily to be avoided. 
— W.Y. Evans-Wentz, Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines: Seven Books of Wisdom of the Great Path, According to the Late Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup’s English Rendering 3rd Edition

Our trope of allegiance is hard-wired, although the particulars of to whom we swear are not fixed. In the 1930s, suffering from the hardships and sanctions imposed after the First World War (shared hardships being a bonding energy) many Germans of average civic pride swooned for the Aryan race rhetoric and grand public pageants of the National Socialists. In the ’40s, reeling under the horrors of the Wehrmacht’s Eastern assault, millions of Russians took up crude weapons or bare fists and many died to save motherland and freedom. Junger says the same happened during the London Blitz, when Britons of all classes and positions were prepared to go to the beaches with broken bottles if necessary.

Image courtesy Farm Family Archives
In the ’50s, anticommunist hysteria swept the West. In the ’60s, the Baby Boom’s bohemianism marked the coming of the Age of Aquarius — harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding, no more falsehoods or derisions, golden living dreams of visions, mystic crystal revelation, and the mind’s true liberation.

Tribal instincts towards personal sacrifice are ennobling, unifying, heroic — even without the broadway back beat. Junger goes on:
Christopher Boehm published an analysis of 154 foraging societies that were deemed to be representative of our ancestral past. One of the most common traits was the absence of wealth disparities between individuals. Another was the absence of arbitrary authority.
“Social life is always egalitarian, in that there is always a low tolerance among a group’s mature males for one of their number dominating, bossing or denigrating the others,” Boehm observed.
The human conscience evolved in the middle to late Pleistocene as the result of the hunting of large game. This required cooperative, band level sharing of meat. Because tribal foragers are highly mobile and can easily shift between different communities, authority is almost impossible to impose on the unwilling. And even without that option, males who try to take control of the group or of the food supply are often countered by coalitions of other males.
This is clearly an ancient and adaptive behavior that tends to keep groups together and equitably cared for.
In his survey of ancestral type societies, Boehm found that, in addition to murder and theft, one of the most commonly punished infractions was failure to share. Freeloading on the hard work of others and bullying were also high on the list. Punishments included public ridicule, shunning and, finally, assassination of the culprit by the entire group.
This fabric is now frayed. Tribe shows it clearly:
All told, combined public and private fraud costs every household in the United States around $5000 per year, or roughly the equivalent of working four months at a minimum wage job. A hunter-gatherer community that lost four months worth of food would face a serious threat to its survival, and its retribution against the people who caused that hardship would be immediate and probably very violent.
Westerners live in a complex society and opportunities for scamming small amounts of money off the bottom are almost endless and very hard to catch. (see Shameless). But scamming large amounts of money off the top seems even harder to catch. Fraud by American Defense contractors is estimated at around 100 billion dollars per year and they are relatively well-behaved compared to the financial industry.
Junger goes on to describe how, following the 2008 bubble-burst, the adult males of the tribe not only did not punish the crooked banksters for costing trillions to the US economy, but rewarded them with million dollar bonuses and billion dollar bailouts. They were not just too big to jail. They were heroes.

Lesser citizens were outraged. A wild silverback buffoon lumbered forward, beat his chest and promised to “drain the swamp.” This alpha male behaved like he was a good ol’ boy calling the tribe to a backyard barbecue, where they were going to roast them some Goldman Sachs. Wiser adults in the tribe should have ridiculed him as a lunatic. Instead, he became supreme commander and the tribe descended into idiocracy.

How does a tribe become that dysfunctional? Partly, Junger opines, it’s the isolation of contemporary living, where we cocoon in private spaces at night and work at faceless terminals by day. Maybe we have a few friends at church, the gym, or a neighbor we know, but more than 90 percent of our human contacts in an average day are with complete strangers. Most we will never see again.

Some of the fallout of our separation from our genes has been the exit from the Paris Agreement and the UN process generally (association with national tribe rather than global community), BREXIT (association with national tribe rather than continent), the Scottish, Crimean and Spanish referenda (association with region, or former nation, rather than nation), the street attacks in London and Paris (association with ethnic tribe rather than civil society), and the Muslim Ban (association with religious groupings and denigrating all others).

Consider the history of US government shutdowns. The 1990 shutdown occurred when then House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich torpedoed an appropriations package put forward by George “Read-my-lips-no-new-taxes” Bush. Because the shutdown occurred over a weekend, only around 2,800 workers were furloughed and it cost the government a mere $2.57 million. That was pocket change to Gingrich. He could pull in more than that in a single power lunch with corporate backers.

During the Clinton administration, there were two full government shutdowns (1995 and 1996) lasting 5 and 21 days respectively. These shutdowns caused massive furloughs and significant disruption. The ostensible issue was deficit funding for Medicare, education, the environment, and public health, which is to say, the willingness of the Federal Reserve to manufacture debt out of thin air, with nothing backing it, and to lend that to the government, banks or anyone else, at private — not public — profit, to meet Congressionally mandated or otherwise legal obligations. Expanding debt, or “liquidity,” expands the national economy and grows jobs and wages. That is how it works.

Gingrich’s GOP, which had legally ordered the unpaid mandates, now wanted to reduce debt, essentially throwing millions of people out of work or freezing their wages. Clinton rightfully refused to do this. Gingrich won. His 1995 shutdown threw 800,000 people out of work and led to the impeachment of the President.

Having been war-painted in the blood of Democrats, the right’s 2013 government shutdown was ostensibly for the purpose of delaying or defunding Obamacare. It ultimately cost the economy some 217 billion dollars and reduced quarterly GDP (previously growing at around 2%) by 0.9 percent. This is more than even a Gingrich power lunch. Approximately 800,000 employees were indefinitely furloughed, and another 1.3 million were required to report to work without pay.

Eighty-one percent of USAnians disapproved the shutdown and 86% felt it had tarnished the United States’ image in the world. In the local DC area, the cost to the economy was $200 million per day. Nationally, the shutdown of the National Park Service alone cost $76 million per day. How many months of food was that for the tribe? For park concessionaires, it was a year’s.

In an October 7, 2013 interview with MSNBC, Senator Bernie Sanders stated:
The real issue here, if you look at the Koch Brothers’ agenda, is: look at what many of the extreme right-wing people believe. Obamacare is just the tip of the iceberg. These people want to abolish the concept of the minimum wage, they want to privatize the Veteran’s Administration, they want to privatize Social Security, end Medicare as we know it, massive cuts in Medicaid, wipe out the EPA; you don’t have an Environmental Protection Agency anymore, Department of Energy gone, Department of Education gone. That is the agenda.
In a rational tribal society mature adults would have publicly ridiculed, tortured and killed Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell and Lamar Alexander. An overwhelming majority of the tribe would have cheered the executioners. But Junger adds a note of caution.
The most alarming rhetoric comes out of the mouths of liberals and conservatives and it is a dangerous waste of time because they’re both right. The perennial conservative concern about high taxes supporting a non-working underclass has entirely legitimate roots in our evolutionary past and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
Early hominids lived a precarious existence where freeloaders were a direct threat to survival and so they developed an exceedingly acute sense of whether they were being taken advantage of by members of their own group. But by the same token, one of the hallmarks of early human society was the emergence of a culture of compassion. They cared for the ill, the elderly, the wounded, and the unlucky. In today’s terms, that is a common liberal concern that also has to be taken into account.
Those two driving forces have co-existed for hundreds of thousands of years in human society and have been duly codified in this country as a two party system. The eternal argument over so-called entitlement programs, and more broadly over liberal and conservative thought, will never be resolved because each side represents an ancient and absolutely essential component of our evolutionary past.
What do you say about a Health Care bill that would throw millions off Medicare and could kill 29,000 people per year? It is not Big Tribe (the nation) but it is small tribe (the wealthy) working shoulder to shoulder to achieve a shared task and egging each other on — honking like geese. In the example of health care, though, Junger’s warning is misplaced. Republicans and Democrats are members of the same tribe. They worship together on the same golf courses and cocktail parties.

Much like Obamacare, Trumpcare is a tax cut for the rich and a payback to the insurance PACs. It kicks seniors out of nursing homes but does not harm elderly wealthy, such as Senators and Congressmen, who can pay for extended care no matter the cost. They get free insurance anyway, and if they didn’t the insurance industry lobbyists would comp them that much out of tribal loyalty.
Ask someone why she stays in a job she hates, and as often as not the answer is, “For the health insurance.” In other words, we stay in jobs that leave us feeling dead in order to gain the assurance of staying alive. When we choose health insurance over passion, we are choosing survival over life. — Charles Eisenstein
Lately the GOP has taken to claiming that Trumpcare will reap 4 billion in savings. Boring into that number, we find it based on the sinister calculation that cutting Medicare to seniors will cause 200,000 deaths among elderly who will then not have to be paid their Social Security entitlements.
Junger scribes a limit to social tolerance:
Reviling people you share a combat outpost with is an incredible stupid thing to do, and public figures who imagine their nation isn’t, potentially, one huge combat outpost, are deluding themselves.

The hippies who left California for Tennessee got themselves a decrepit ridgetop farm for $70 dollars an acre and nearly starved the first winter. Reduced to eating boiled wheat with sorghum molasses, they persevered in thin-walled army tents in subzero temperatures, and worked from sunrise to sunset building roads, laying pipe and erecting public buildings — the dairy, the machine shop, the potato barn, the free store, the tractor barn, the flour mill, this gatehouse. We bonded much more deeply than crash-pad stoners or cubicle rats. More like soldiers in a combat outpost.

For that first dozen years the per capita income from all sources seldom exceeded one dollar per day. Gangs of us got up before dawn to bus 75 miles to Nashville to work hard labor at $1.25 per hour. We got bombed by the Klan, had horses shot, were harassed by the District Attorney. It only made us stronger.

We tribed.

We should thank the buffoon and his chorus. While they may not grow GDP, they are doing what they can to boost the misery index. The storm that is coming is going to push a great many more people back to their genetic roots. We’ll need that unity if we are going to seriously tackle the greatest enemy we have — ourselves.

Ragweed 2017




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